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Blick Mead update

8 July 2014

Blick Mead, overlooking the river Avon, is also the feature of an article in Current Archaeology 293 (see once again, www.archaeology.co.uk – but remember the articles in the current issue are not uploaded to the web site for several weeks afterwards, otherwise people would not buy the magazine). The Mesolithic period remains (prior to 6000BC) were found beneath what became an Iron Age hillfort – Vespasian's Camp (a bit of antiquarian speculation as it long pre-dates the Roman general and emperor of that name). At Blick Mead, in an area the size of a soccer goal mouth (including the area of the goal net) an astonishing 31,000 flints tools and flakes have been found. David Jaques, the author of the article and the excavator, seems to suggest the number of flints will increase as the excavation continues. Last year there were just 10,000 – and that was thought to be remarkable. Blick Mead was basically a place where flint knapping took place – and it was also a communal meeting place where items were exchanged, including tools and points.

The site is, or was, situated at a spring and in the Mesolithic period (sediment core evidence) the site would have been situated beside a natural channel of water – or possibly a pond created by the springs. It would also have been surrounded by mature woodland (pollen analysis) bgut most importantly, the site overlooks Salisbury Plain – which even in the early Holocene would have been more open than the wooded areas on the perimeter. The author speculates such a landscape, trees and scrub with mixed grassland, would have been favoured by aurochs – ancient wild cattle twice the size of modern domesticated breeds. At this point Jaques homes in on a possible link with cultures in other parts of the world, from Africa to Europe and western Asia, the role of cows and bulls in myth and ritual observation. Salisbury Plain could have had some extensive herds of auroch and these could have been managed by Mesolithic people, with animals killed during particular festivities or mythic re-enactments, at different times of the year – with people participating from a wide geographical base, converging on Blick Mead, or its vicinity, in order to celebrate or take part in a grand communal gathering. Such gatherings had a mythic or ritual edge but most of all they had a communal function, bringing people of distant relation together several times in the year. As such, feasting would have taken place, and from Blick Mead the evidence appears to be that this involved cooking and eating aurochs. Great big slabs of meat like that were not killed for the consumption of a few people but indicate people came from far and wide – in order to share, not simply a meal consisting of lots of meat, but eating the animal that represented their god (or gods), a horned animal that we may compare with the Egyptian Hathor, or the bull Min. 

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